Here they were facing another year with empty arms. The conflicting emotions of intense pain for another year gone by without the fulfillment of their most fervent dream and hope for the future. Another year of failed cycles. Another year of being different. Another year of infertility ruling their lives. Another year in which everyone around them seemed to be living their dream while they were left behind.
Yet before them laid hope. A new year. New possibilities. New treatment. A new doctor. The cycle beginning once again. Heartfelt and tearful prayers that this year should be the one. That this time it would work. That this year they would move forward.
It is hard to hold on to hope while so deep in pain. It is so hard to explain these emotions to family and friends who may not understand.
For Sara and Jeremy the thought of spending another holiday season with siblings and their children was too much. So they chose to stay home. They chose to spend the holidays with friends who did not yet have children. They chose to surround themselves in a bubble that looked most similar to their reality.
For Some, the Holidays Are Not a Joyous Time
But even in this escape they were brought back to reality. They were reminded that they were different. As the rabbi got up to speak and share a dvar Torah on Rosh Hashanah, he addressed the congregation and in his comments said, “The purpose of Judaism is to pass it on to your children.” And in that moment Sara’s tears sprung forth. Was everyone staring? Did they notice her embarrassment and pain? She could not control the emotions, the feelings of longing and shame.
And then came Simchat Torah. The families gathered. The children were ushered into the room. Parents and grandparents were frantically moving about ensuring that all of their children were under the tallit. There they were alone, left behind, no child to cradle and no space to join in. And once again Sara’s tears could not be contained.
The prayers and anguish overflowed. God, when will it be our turn? When will we be able to stop dreaming and start living this reality?
Be a Friend to Those Going Through Infertility
Chagim is a time of family, whether virtual or in person. For couples experiencing infertility, it is an especially rough time of year. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as we enter the holiday season.
1. Reach out to family and friends who you think may be struggling with infertility. Call them to wish them a good Yom Tov, send them baked goods, or write them a nice holiday card. If they are not sharing details, this is not the time to bring it up. Now is an opportunity to show that you care and remember them at this time of year.
2. Be sure to invite family and friends who may be experiencing infertility to join you for chag, while at the same time know that they might decline the offer. Be gracious in accepting their no and assure them that though they will be missed, you understand. It is not personal, they are not trying to offend anyone. They are just not in the space to be around others at this time. And don’t allow this to deter you from future invites.
3. If you are hosting family or friends who do not yet have children, be sure that the conversation in your home does not revolve primarily around the kids. Make room for conversation that allows everyone to be active participants.
4. Even if they are the only ones at your home who do not have children to take care of, it does not mean they should be the only ones helping serve and clear. Make sure that everyone takes an active role in helping. They have enough other painful reminders that they are not busy taking care of children. Try to ensure that this is not one of them.
As the new year starts, each of us needs to consider our relationships with the one in eight couples in our community experiencing infertility. One of our commitments in 5781 should include being a better ally, supporter and friend to those who may feel socially isolated year round.
May this be a year filled with happiness, joy and blessings for all. Shana Tova!
Gila Muskin Block is a fertility warrior and executive director of Yesh Tikva (yeshtikva.org). Yesh Tikva, Hebrew for “There Is Hope,” was established to end the silence and create a Jewish community of support for all Jewish people facing infertility. Yesh Tikva provides free professional psychosocial services, resources and tools to those struggling with infertility and raises awareness and sensitivity on the subject throughout the Jewish community.